Teorema 004: Preliminary sketch, Vitra Fire Station, by Zaha Hadid, 1991

Teorema 004: Preliminary sketch, Vitra Fire Station, by Zaha Hadid, 1991

Zaha Hadid continually stretches the boundaries of architecture and urban design. Dividing her concentration between practice, teaching, and research, her work experiments with new spatial concepts intensifying existing urban landscapes in the pursuit of a visionary aesthetic that encompasses all fields of design.

The 2004 Pritzker Prize winner, Hadid’s design is both innovative and provocative.[1]As published in the jurors’ comments, the architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable writes: Hadid’s fragmented geometry and fluid mobility do more than create an abstract, dynamic beauty; this is a body of work that explores and expresses the world we live in.[2]

Born in Baghdad, Iraq, Hadid began her architecture studies at the Architectural Association in London and was awarded the Diploma Prize in 1977. Starting her practice in the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, she taught at the Architectural Association until 1987. She has been teaching at various schools in Germany, Austria, and the United States.

Hadid consistently uses drawings and paintings as exploration in her design process. These often abstract slices and shards represent her approach to architecture. The images become the impetus for conceptual stages. This sketched image demonstrates a beginning for the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany. The commission was to build a fire station, and the program extended to include the boundary walls of the site, a bicycle shed, and an exercise pavilion. The building was developed to define the landscaped zone of the linear site. This resulted in a long narrow building alongside the street. The structure has been cut and bent to portray a collision of directions.The space-defining and screening functions of the building were the point of departure for the development of the architectural concept: a linear, layered series of walls. The programme of the firestation inhabits the spaces between these walls, which puncture, tilt and break according to the functional requirements.

The sketch, although minimal, reflects these concepts. The page shows several angled lines, primarily extending from the lower left to the upper right. Most appear to be rendered with ink or watercolor and a brush. This gives a hazy, indefinite shadow to the lines, softening them and accentuating the differences in thickness. Many of the lines are straight, although several have distinct kinks in them to evoke the change in directions Hadid describes in her concept statement. The marks have been layered nearly parallel to suggest motion, creating a tension in the spaces between.

This sketch is a beautiful and succinct diagram of Hadid’s thinking. The images, although brief and abstract, present the clear concept of the walls that puncture, tilt, and break. It is preliminary, preparatory, and describes an outline of her design process.

From Kendra Schank Smith, Architects Drawings, Architectural Press, Oxford, 2005

[1]Quotes, paraphrased biography, and information on the Vitra Fire Station taken from materials provided by Zaha Hadid Architects.

[2]Juror’s comments posted on the Pritzker Prize website.

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